During the past several weeks, I’ve often been asked what I would’ve done differently for BP’s public relations efforts.
Honestly, I would not wish that responsibility upon anyone. It’s a daunting task and the odds are stacked against BP more than any craps table I’ve ever played.
But, for the record, here’s what I will say, retroactively — which isn’t really fair.
1. BP failed to manage the expectations from the onset. There was too much optimism, too much hyperbole and very few specifics. BP surely knew just how bad things could get and should have come out swinging with, “This may become the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.” That would’ve caught a lot more attention from Washington and the world.
2. Keep your CEO off the podium. There was no real reason to put him out there. He’s not a deep-sea drilling expert and not that adept at media relations.
3. Bring the U.S. government into the fold quickly as a partner. Might as well spread the wealth and have everyone take a little heat.
4. Put Louisiana and other Gulf state senior-level government officials on a BP disaster steering committee to oversee the response. Show teamwork, and that has simply not happened.
5. Engage volunteers and fishing captains quickly and extensively. While a lot more of this is happening now, their involvement sputtered at the start.
6. Bring environmental organizations into the mix early. The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and others could have been a much bigger help early on.
7. Don’t speak with mixed messages or inconsistent messaging. This really goes back to the basics in crisis management.
8. Never turn on a deep-sea HD camera. From a PR perspective, this has become the “visual” for the media and it’s not a pretty sight.
9. Don’t go to yacht races when the chips are down. This speaks for itself.
10. Help your gas stations early, before they start complaining. It was evident early on that a boycott would ensue. Why not avoid this public display of dissatisfaction from station owners entirely?
Looking back is so much easier than looking forward.